I’m not a carry-on-only traveler, at all!
I do envy those carry-on-only people sometimes, as it’s nice to pack less, carry less, and overall be lighter. But after living abroad for a few years and spending around a year away from a home base every time I jet off, I think using the best hard shell luggage is perfect for me (depending on my destination).
I sometimes travel with a backpack when the country depends on it (read: crazy roads, cracked streets, crowded places, etc), but sometimes when I’m going to more chill places, places for extended periods of time, or to a location that requires more equipment space, hard shell luggage is what I use!
So here’s a bit of a guide to some of the best hardside luggage I’ve found out there and what’s important when choosing your luggage.
Choosing the Best Hard Shell Luggage
Choosing the right luggage for your travels can be a tricky business, and surprisingly there is a lot to consider. One of the first decisions you should make is if you would prefer a hard or soft-sided case.
Although there are benefits to both, a large hard shell suitcase is your best bet for the protection of your items, from both humans and the elements.
Another benefit of a hard shell suitcase is it can’t stain, which should definitely be taken into consideration if you are an avid traveler. The four 360-degree wheels also allow for easy maneuvering.
The two most common materials used for hard shell luggage are Polycarbonate and ABS. Polycarbonate is more flexible and has stronger impact resistance, but the downside is they come at a higher cost. Generally, Polycarbonate makes the best hard shell luggage.
This is what I currently have, and on my very first trip with it, the airline mishandled my bag so badly it came back to me with a dent! Dents are probably the biggest con with hard shell luggage, as fabric ones don’t have this issue, but a tear is far worse than a dent!
Many people believe you can fit less in a hard shell suitcase, but this is not the case at all (pun intended). Advanced design means there are many cases with extra built-in panels for more space.
Many suitcases nowadays have an expandable feature that allows you to “unzip” more space in a snap.
For ultimate convenience, the best hard shell luggage comes with lots of internal compartments. These smaller pockets are sure to come in handy when packing items such as gadgets and accessories and can be especially helpful when you want to grab certain items when you are on the move.
Many large hard side suitcases come with built-in locks, so you won’t have to worry about people getting into your case during transit. In addition, you’ll want to make sure you purchase hard shell luggage that is equipt with quality zippers so there are no exploded suitcases coming out of the carousel!
Best Hard Side Suitcases
Through tons of research, here’s a list of some of the best hard shell suitcases I could find out there! Yes, I’ve done all the hard work for you, thank me from your final destination!
For the prices, we used this system:
- $ = $150 and under
- $$ = $150-300
- $$$ = $300 and up
1. Removable Wheels | Take OFF Luggage Hard Shell Carry On
Flying with luggage is expensive these days. Even a small carry-on can dig into your precious travel budget! Enter the Take OFF Luggage Hardshell Carry On. This bad boy has removable wheels, which allows the bag to fit under the seat and pass personal item size restrictions on (MOST) airlines.
No need to waste money purchasing that expensive overhead bin space!
Once you’re off the plane, you can put the 4 spinner wheels back on and glide through the airport with ease. Since it’s the removable wheels that make this hard side luggage small, there is plenty of room in the actual bag to get you through short trips.
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- Removable wheels for under-seat storage
- Built-in TSA-approved locks
- Small enough to pass as a personal item on most airlines
- Dimensions: 8 x 14 x 18 inches (without wheels)
- Weight: 6.98 lbs
- Price: $
2. Long-lasting | iFLY Hard Side Fibertech Luggage
If you’re searching for the best hard side luggage that will last you for years to come, I highly recommend the iFLY Hardside Fibertech Luggage. I personally had this bag for about 6 years (!!), and it held up well – especially for the price point.
At 28 inches, this is a great bag for those who want a little bit more space and don’t mind checking it in. The durable ABS/PC shell should keep it safe from even the roughest baggage handlers, and the 4 electroplated double wheels make it easy to maneuver despite its larger size.
Staying organized is easy with the iFly, thanks to the dual compartments and zippered mesh pockets.
- Durable ABS/PC design
- The expansion zipper adds 2 inches of packing space
- Dual compartments + zippered mesh pockets for easy organization
- Dimension: 30 x 18.5 x 13 inches
- Weight: 10.8 lbs
- Price: $
3. Customizable | Roam Check-In Luggage
If you are looking for something customizable while not losing out on durability and functionality, then look no further than the Roam Check-In Luggage as an option for the best hard shell luggage.
Nearly everything about this bag is customizable. You can choose the color for both the front and back shell, plus the zipper, the interior lining, carry handles, wheels, and more! You can also opt for an additional 2 inches of expandability if you need it.
As well as being aesthetically pleasing, the Roam has a lot going for it. The shell is made from durable polycarbonate, the zippers are water-repellant, and the ball-bearing wheels make for a smooth ride.
- Super customizable
- Durable polycarbonate shell
- Water repellent zippers
- Dimensions: 26 x 17.5 x 10.5 inches
- Weight: 9.3 lbs
- Price: $$$
4. 2-piece Set | Level8 Textured Luggage Set
This is my current set, and I LOVE it! Getting a set of suitcases will provide you with both more space and more flexibility. The Level8 Textured Luggage Set includes a 28-inch checked bag, plus a 20-inch carry-on version for traveling light – or for a really long trip you can take two!
Both have the same textured hard exterior that prevents scratches and provides waterproof protection. I can vouch for the durability of this set, as I’ve put it through the wringer for about 2 years with very little wear and tear.
For a slightly smaller set, you can grab their 20” at 24” set.
Inside there’s a zip compartment on one side, with a compression strap to help clothes stay in place. On the other side, there’s a twin mesh zipper pocket for organizing books or documents. This is one of the deepest hard shell suitcases I’ve used, which really helps if you’re a chronic over-packer.
The wheels have 360-degree rotation, with built-in noise reduction and an anti-shock design. For security, there’s a TSA-approved combination lock.
GET 10% OFF YOUR ORDER WITH THIS DISCOUNT CODE: LEVEL8NINA10
- 2-piece luggage set
- 360° Spinner Wheels With Quiet Anti-shock Design
- Fabric Lining Inside + Interior Mesh Pocket Divider For Easy Organization
- Dimension: 14.6 x 9.3 x 21.5 + 30 x 20 x 11.8 inches
- Weight: 7.1 lbs + 12.1 lbs
- Price: $$$ (but you get 2 bags!)
5. Easy Organization | Samsonite Winfield 2 Hard Side Luggage
The Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside Luggage makes organization easy thanks to the full zip divider and organizational pockets inside. When you reach your final destination, you will have no trouble finding your individual items.
Additional features of this large hard side suitcase include a TSA-compatible combination lock to ensure that all your belongings arrive safely at your destination, 360-degree spinner wheels, and a pushbutton handle with a comfortable grip.
It’s a 100% polycarbonate construction that eliminates dents and has a brushed pattern to hide any potential scuffs or scratches.
- Easy organization with multiple compartments and pockets
- Lots of colors to choose from
- 360-degree spinner wheels for easy navigation
- Dimensions: 31.0 x 20.0 x 12.75 inches
- Weight: 11.5 lbs
- Price: $$
6. Front Pocket | DELSEY Paris Titanium Hard Side
If you’re a digital nomad, the best hard side luggage will likely need to include a front pocket for your laptop. The DELSEY Paris Titanium Hardside has a large, easy-access front pocket with a laptop sleeve and a durable polycarbonate exterior for extra protection.
The small size means that it’s carry-on compliant, so you’ll be able to bring your laptop and other electronics on board. Even if you’re not utilizing the laptop sleeve, this hard shell suitcase is a great option for any traveler thanks to its good organization, double-spinner wheels, and scratch-resistant matte finish.
- Large, easy access front-pocket with laptop sleeve
- Dual spinner wheels
- Durable polycarbonate exterior with a scratch-resistant matte finish
- Dimensions: 19 x 13 x 9.75 inches
- Weight: 7.9 pounds
- Price: $
7. Lightweight Carry-On | Travelpro Maxlite Air Carry-On Expandable Hard Side Spinner
If you are one of those people that come back from vacation with your suitcase much more full than when you went away, then the Maxlite Hardside Spinner may be the best option for you.
This durable and lightweight hard side carry-on suitcase comes with the option of expanding an extra 2” – so if you need that little bit of extra room, it won’t be a problem.
The shell is made from 100% polycarbonate, meaning it is flexible while still being extremely lightweight. The molded corner guards act as built-in bumpers, while the textured surface helps to protect against bumps and scuffs. Not only is it effective, but it also looks sleek and comes in a range of colors.
- Durable polycarbonate shell
- Dimensions: 9.5 x 14.5 x 23 inches
- Weight: 6.3 lbs
- Price: $
8. Lightweight Checked Bag | Samsonite Freeform Handside Spinner
The Samsonite Freeform’s main selling point is how light it is, but it remains ultra-strong in order to withstand day-to-day travel.
The lightweight option means that you won’t have to worry so much when packing, and the recessed TSA combination lock will give you peace of mind that your belongings will remain safe and secure throughout your journey.
The case also looks modern and trendy, with the range of colors available, meaning you will always be able to spot which one is yours when on the carousel.
Four multidirectional double spinner wheels allow for 360-degree upright rolling, so there is no weight on your arm or shoulder, and the cross ribbon and divider can be used for easy packing and organization.
- Wide range of colors available
- TSA-compliant combination lock
- Dimensions: 13.78 x 20.95 x 31.1 inches
- Weight: 9.59 pounds
- Price: $$
9. Budget-friendly Carry On | Amazon Basics Hard Side Spinner
Because it’s a bit more durable, the best hard side luggage tends to be a bit more expensive than its soft-side counterpart. But there are definitely some great budget-friendly hard shell options too! The Amazon Basics Hardside Spinner is under $100, and it has great value for the price point.
The ABS shell and scratch-resistant finish means that it’s built to last, and the multiple compartments, compression straps, and zippered pockets make for easy organization. The bag can expand an additional 2″ if you need it, and it comes in multiple sizes if you want to upgrade to something a little roomier.
- Budget-friendly carry-on
- Scratch-resistant finish
- Dimensions: 14.96 x 10.04 x 21.65 inches
- Weight: 6.39 lbs
- Price: $
10. Budget-friendly Checked | Kenneth Cole Reaction Hard Side
The Kenneth Cole Reaction Hardside is a great large hard shell suitcase for many reasons, but primarily for its big size and small price point. The case is a large, checked bag, meaning you won’t have to worry about picking up a few extra souvenirs while on your travels.
This large hard shell suitcase also looks sleek and professional, with a range of colors to suit every traveler. The multidirectional wheel spinner system makes it easy to control no matter how heavy the case is packed, with the sturdy push button trolley handle adding to the overall maneuverability.
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Premium 4-wheel multi-directional spinners
- Dimensions: 18 x 10 x 25 inches
- Weight: 8.4 lbs
- Price: $
11. Fully Collapsible | Rollink Flex Vega
If you’re someone who likes to shop while on vacation, I’ve got the bag for you. The fully collapsible Rollink Flex Vega measures just 2 inches when it’s zipped flat, then expands to 9 inches when you’re ready to stuff it full of goodies from your travels.
This bag is kind of a combo. The front and back shells are made from durable polycarbonate, and the center features a flexible fabric for a seamless transformation.
Once you’re at your destination (or home from your travels), you can unpack and collapse the bag – you won’t need a lot of space to store this bad boy! Throw it under the bed, on your top closet shelf, or anywhere else it will fit, which is really anywhere!
- Fully collapsible for easy storage
- Variety of sizes and colors to choose from
- Dimensions: 21.6 x 15.7 x 9 inches
- Weight: 5.3 lbs
- Price: $$
12. Compact for Under Seat Storage | Hanke Underseat Mini Hard Side Luggage
Going for a quick trip? Or maybe you simply don’t want to pay for luggage. Either way, the Hanke Under Seat Mini is one of the best hard shell luggage choices if you need something compact.
Not only is this sleek mini carry-on small enough to pass as a personal item for most major airlines, but it has some great specs, too. The 4 double spinner wheels make it easy to maneuver through busy airports, and the polycarbonate shell and 3-layer micro-diamond textured surface mean that it’s built to last.
This may not be the best option if you are taking a longer trip or tend to overpack, but for professional minimalists, this bag is ideal!
- Compact size fits under the seat of most major airlines
- Durable polycarbonate shell with 3-layer micro-diamond textured surface
- 4 double spinner wheels
- Dimensions: 12.4 x 8.46 x 15.39 inches
- Weight: 5.5 lbs
- Price: $
13. Spacious | Travelpro Platinum Elite Hard Side Luggage
If you know yourself and you’ve come to terms with your overpacking habits, go big with the Travelpro Platinum Elite Hardside. This spacious hard shell suitcase offers plenty of space for all your stuff, plus whatever else you find while away that you simply must bring back with you.
There are two large compartments, plus interior zippered divider pockets and built-in organization pockets, so you’ll be able to find whatever you need with ease throughout your trip.
Other components that make the Travelpro Platinum Elite one of the best hard side luggage pieces include its tough polycarbonate shell, the self-aligning magnetic spinner wheels, and its ability to expand an additional 2″ for the serious over-packers.
- Spacious bag with divider and organizational pockets
- Polycarbonate hard shell with aluminum corner guards
- PrecisionGlide System with self-aligning magnetic spinner wheels
- Dimensions: 13.25 x 18 x 30 inches
- Weight: 12.3 lbs
- Price: $$$
14. Traveling with Gear | Traveler’s Choice Maxporter II
Adventure travelers rejoice – the Traveler’s Choice Maxporter II has all the space you’ll need for bulky (and expensive) gear! The interior offers organization with custom adjustable and removable shelves and zippered pockets, plus an anti-microbial lining to protect your luggage from bacteria growth.
This thing is a tank, and it’s built to protect whatever you have inside. The exterior features a polycarbonate shell, protective corner bumpers to soften heavy blows, and double coil burst-resistant anti-theft zippers.
There are also strong and durable handles around the bag, making it easy to transport in any situation.
- Tough polycarbonate shell + protective bumpers to keep gear safe
- Anti-microbial interior lining + organization shelves and pockets
- Double coil burst-resistant zippers to protect against theft
- Dimensions: 17 x 14 x 30 inches
- Weight: 13.77 lbs
- Price: $$
So is hard shell luggage the right thing for your next trip? Which one will you get?
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Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad since 2011 and blogging on Where in the World is Nina? for nearly as long. Nina helps people like you move around the world while making money. She loves talking about how to work abroad and online to travel longer!